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Music 192D Home Page

"Creative Processes in Popular Music Recording"

Spring Quarter, 1996-97, Stanford University

Click here to read the Stanford Daily article about this course.

Updated 5/28/97

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Syllabus | Study Questions | Lecture Notes | Artist Links | See the Class List

Description of the Term Paper Option |Distribution of Midterm Grades


INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Daniel J. Levitin (Click here to go to his home page)
Phone: 842-6236
Office Hours:
  • Tuesdays, 2:00 - 3:00, The Knoll
    • (main floor, first office on your right)

  • Tuesdays, 5:05 - 6:00, Stanford Coffee House
  • or by appointment

  • T.A. Lonny Chu
    Phone: 424-8633
    Office Hours: Wednesday, 5 - 6:30, Braun 2nd Floor T.A. Lounge

    PREREQUISITES: None, however a background in music performance and recording will be beneficial.

    SCHEDULE: The course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:15 - 5:05 in Campbell Recital Hall.

    CREDIT: 4 units. Students who lack background in music performance and recording, and who would like additional instruction, can attend a weekly discussion section on Wednesdays (described below).

    DISCUSSION SECTION/CLASS LISTENING GROUPS: Critical music listening can be profoundly enhanced by listening with others. Listening together will be part of the normal way we spend class time. However, I would like you to listen to music and do some of your homework in groups. There are two ways to do this. Those students who lack background in music performance and recording will be expected to attend a weekly discussion section on Wednesdays, in Braun 103, from 3:15 - 5:00 (or perhaps two one-hour sections depending on student interest). Everyone is expected, on the honor system, to meet in groups of 3 - 4 classmates to listen and discuss the assigned music.

    THEME: This course will take an in-depth look at the creation of popular music, through a detailed analysis of the work of the following musical artists: Aimee Mann, Chicago, The Carpenters, Michael Brook, Bernie Taupin, Parthenon Huxley. In addition, we will spend some time studying a bit about the music business, and its impact on musical creativity. While all of the musicians we will study are considered to be innovative musical artists, they are also extraordinarily skilled at the craft of songwriting, arranging, and recording, and have made unique contributions to the way we think about how recordings should sound. They are also extremely articulate speakers, and will share their thoughts about their own creative process in guest lectures.

    We will listen to recordings by these artists and discuss why they are important in the history of popular music, and in what ways they are innovative (both creatively and technically); in the process we will gain a greater appreciation for their work. Some questions that we will address include: How are they able to capture sincerity and intimacy in the artificial environment of the recording studio? Do they rely on inspiration for songwriting, or do they write songs more systematically? How has the technology of recording influenced or changed their music? How have they stayed fresh and innovative over the years?


    (1) Homework assignments and other material important for this course will be posted on the course web-site:

    http://www-ccrma.stanford.edu/CCRMA/Courses/192d:1997/ (this should be where you are now in your broswer).

    You are expected to have access to and log into the web-site.

    (2) The principal homework assignment is to listen to recordings by the assigned musical artist. Please set aside adequate time to study the recordings by yourself and in your Class Listening Groups.

    (3) Keep a journal of the music you listen to throughout this course, describing your listening experiences for each of the assigned albums. We will collect this journal at designated times during the term. The journal will be worth 1/3 of your grade, and should incorporate your answers to the weekly study questions. Phenomenally well-prepared journals will earn extra credit.

    (4) A multiple choice midterm and final examination will address these recordings as well as material presented in the lectures. You can choose to write a term paper in lieu of taking the final exam. The midterm and final/term paper will each be worth 1/3 of your grade.

    (5) Pass/no credit option will not be allowed.

    FORMAT: The first and last week of the course will be spent on the traditional Introduction and Conclusions for the course. The remaining eight weeks will be structured as follows: each Thursday I will assign a set of listenings for a particular musical artist, along with study questions. On Tuesday I will give a lecture on the work of the assigned musical artist, using recorded examples in class; students will need to come to class prepared with questions based on the listening assignment. Each Thursday will be a guest lecture/discussion by that musical artist. Only students enrolled in Music 192D will be permitted to attend the lectures.

    The guest lecturers will address the following issues: composition techniques; "borrowing" musical ideas from other writers; how they find inspiration; how they use the recording studio and music technology to achieve their artistic vision; what it is they are trying to achieve with their music.


    No visitors policy. This class is for you! Although it has been the custom at Stanford for many years to have "open lectures" - that is, to allow anyone to attend lectures on campus (regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in the course) please understand that Music 192D for people who are registered for this class. Please respect this policy.

    Recording of the guest lecturers is strictly prohibited. By taking this class you agree not to tape record the guest lecturers. Anyone caught recording a guest lecture will be automatically given a grade of "F" and referred to the Dean for a violation of the Stanford Honor Code. The musical artists are under exclusive contracts with record companies, and we must honor their legal commitments.



    Course Reader (available at the Stanford Bookstore)

    9 Compact Disks (available at the Stanford Bookstore. Three copies of each title will also be on reserve at Meyer Media Center):

    Michael Brook, Albino Alligator

    The Carpenters, The Singles, 1969-1973

    Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority

    Amee Mann, Whatever

    NuFlavor, Nu Flavor

    Various Artist, Two Rooms (Music of Elton John & Bernie Taupin)

    P. Hux, Deluxe


    One additional CD to be announced



    Week 1, April 1 & 3: Traditional beginning of class; brief history of rock music; demo tapes; arranging; listening.

    Week 2, April 8 & 10: The Music of Michael Brook

    Week 3, April 15 & 17: The Music of Aimee Mann

    Week 4, April 22 & 24: The Music of Nu Flavor, and Introduction to the Music Business

    Week 5, April 29 & May 1: The Music of Chicago

    Week 6, May 6 & 8: The Music of The Carpenters

    Week 7, May 13 & 15: The Music of Bernie Taupin

    Week 8, May 20 & 22: The Music of Parthenon Huxley

    Week 9, May 27 & 29: Production (Sandy Pearlman); Management and Record Companies (Irving Azoff)

    Week 10, June 3: The Music of The Beatles; Conclusions, wrap-up.